<p>&nbsp;Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson co-star in the sly, violent new comedy 'The Guard'</p>
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 Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson co-star in the sly, violent new comedy 'The Guard'

 

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle team up for darkly hilarious 'The Guard'

HitFix
A
Readers
A+
If you love smart character comedy, this is your best weekend bet

"What a beautiful fookin' day."  

With that greeting, Brendan Gleeson kicks off the dry-as-a-bone wicked Irish comedy written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, a film that lays its traps quietly, expertly performed and with a strong sense of voice and location.  "The Guard" gives Brendan Gleeson one of the best roles he's ever had, and he plays it perfectly.  "The Guard" is one of the highlights of the year so far, and the sort of thing that could easily get lost in a weekend like this one.

That would be a shame.

Gleeson plays Sergeant Gerry Boyle,  a guy who has found his place in life and who enjoys what he's carved out for himself.  He likes his community.  He likes his place in it.  He likes who he works with, and he likes the work itself.  When there's a murder in his town on the same day he's breaking in a new guy, Garda McBride (Rory Keenan), it's the kick-off to a strange, twisted string of collisions and misunderstandings and calculated betrayals, and the way McDonagh orchestrates it all is masterful.  His brother Martin McDonagh was the writer/director of "In Bruges," and he's a gifted playwright. 

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<p>Miranda July is the writer, director, and star of 'The Future,' a quirky, personal vision of responsibility and love</p>

Miranda July is the writer, director, and star of 'The Future,' a quirky, personal vision of responsibility and love

Credit: Roadside Attractions

Review: 'The Future' offers up a personal, quirky view of late-30s relationships

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Miranda July's second film crystallizes her filmmaking voice

Miranda July has become a polarizing figure among the film fans who know her work, and I understand why.  She is eccentric, both as a writer/director and as a performer, and it's such an organic, complete part of her personality that I can't imagine her ever shutting that off and making more "conventional" films, and I think that's just fine.  The voice she's developing as a filmmaker is sweet and funny and odd, and it feels like she's grown in the six years since she made her first film, "Me and You and Everyone We Know."

The film opens with a voice-over by a cat named Paw-Paw who is wasting away in a shelter, dying, praying for someone to take him home.  Her salvation comes in the form of Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), a couple who have been rolling along in a state of inertia for years.  They're determined to change things, experience new things, and try to accept some new responsibilities.  They haven't accomplished much, and they're at that point in life where they have to start thinking that maybe they won't, and it's obvious that the thought scares them.

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<p>Dominic Cooper plays both Uday Hussein and Latif Yahia in the new film 'The Devil's Double'</p>

Dominic Cooper plays both Uday Hussein and Latif Yahia in the new film 'The Devil's Double'

Credit: Lionsgate

Review: Dominic Cooper gives amazing dual-performance in perfunctory 'Devil's Double'

A mediocre film is elevated by two great performances from the same actor

There is no denying that the dual performances at the heart of "The Devil's Double" are impressive, and Dominic Cooper will, I'm sure, be duly rewarded with more work and acclaim, and he deserves it.

But aside from those performances, I'm not really sure what the point of "The Devil's Double" is.  It's based on the true story of Latif Yahia, an Iraqi soldier who went to boarding school with Uday Hussein, where the tremendous similarity between the two of them was noticed by everyone.  Years passed, and Uday finally sent for Latif, ordering him to undergo plastic surgery and dental work to make the appearance even more similar so that Latif could appear in public as his fiday, his double.  Latif tried to resist, but when his family was threatened, he finally agreed and spent several years in the role, horrified by Uday's cruel and brutal excesses.  He finally escaped in 1992, and became an author, eventually writing about his experiences.

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<p>Neil Patrick Harris plays Rock Band with The Smurfs in a scene from my own personal nightmares.</p>

Neil Patrick Harris plays Rock Band with The Smurfs in a scene from my own personal nightmares.

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Review: 'The Smurfs' offers harmless, self-aware family laughs

HitFix
C
Readers
n/a
Latest example of a relatively new genre is review-proof

Yep.  There is a movie called "The Smurfs" and it exists.

Is there really nostalgia out there for these characters?  If you grew up in the '80s watching the cartoon on Saturday mornings, are you really hoping to see a new film with the little blue creatures?  Somehow, I doubt it.  This has struck me as one of the strangest miscalculations of this era of nothing but pre-existing properties since it was first announced, and now, finally, the film will be in theaters this Friday and we'll see what kind of appetite people actually have for the Smurfs.

One thing is clear, though, having taken both of my children to see the movie last night:  this is not a movie that is aimed at grown-ups.  It was written young, it plays young, and for a six year old and a three year old, it seemed to play just fine.  I'll give it credit for making the two of them belly laugh every time Hank Azaria, chewing scenery with aplomb as Gargamel, evil wizard foe to the Smurfs, got hurt in some dramatic fashion.  Listening to them laugh like that is exactly why I took them, and it worked well enough on that level.

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<p>Lukas Haas plays witness to a rock star's breakdown in 'The Perfect Age of Rock'n'Roll'</p>

Lukas Haas plays witness to a rock star's breakdown in 'The Perfect Age of Rock'n'Roll'

Credit: Red Hawk Films

Watch: Lukas Haas on the curse of 27 in exclusive clip from 'The Perfect Age Of Rock'n'Roll'

Unfortunate timing underscores the sadness behind a rock'n'roll superstition

When I was approached about publishing an exclusive clip from the new film "The Perfect Age Of Rock'n'Roll" here on the blog, I was interested because of the cast.  But then the events of the last week, as we were looking for a place to schedule the clip, made it a little bit more interesting and, frankly, difficult, and we had some conversations about how to handle it before we agreed to premiering it this morning.

I suspect you'll understand why once you read the following synopsis for the film:

According to rock ‘n’ roll lore, age 27 is a fateful milestone.  From Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison to Kurt Cobain, all stars we lost at this very age.

World famous rock star Spyder (Kevin Zegers – Transamerica, Frozen) has achieved fame and fortune with a smash hit debut album. This blinding success however, is built on the Faustian pact that capitalized on the genius of his long lost childhood best friend and band mate, Eric Genson (Jason Ritter – NBC’s The Event, Good Dick). Now Spyder retreats to his small hometown after his sophomore effort flops. Reconnecting with Eric after a seven year estrangement, the two recall their youthful ambitions and reexamine the choices they’ve made. Accompanied by the band’s ambitious, fiery manager (Taryn Manning – ABC’s Hawaii 5-0, Hustle & Flow, 8 Mile), the legendary music impresario August West (Peter Fonda – Easy Rider, 3:10 to Yuma) and a raucous crew of musicians, they set off on a cathartic journey along historic Route 66 that brings them closer to each other, their history and their destiny. Fueled by a stellar rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack that includes songs by Nirvana, Bob Dylan, Iggy & The Stooges, Alice in Chains, Muddy Waters, The Violent Femmes, Howlin’ Wolf, Jane’s Addiction, and many more, The Perfect Age of Rock ‘N’ Roll fully captures the energy, rebellion, and thrills of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

Last week, Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27, and as soon as that number got reported, I braced myself for it to trend on Twitter. And it did, as did Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain.  It is a sad and unfortunate coincidence, but as with any artistic field, there are superstitions and folklore that build up, and for this film to make that a jumping-off point is one of those strange synchronicities of timing that happens occasionally.

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<p>Daniel Craig, avoiding a stampede</p>

Daniel Craig, avoiding a stampede

Watch: Daniel Craig talks dirt and horses for 'Cowboys and Aliens'

The 'James Bond' actor threw himself into the process of shooting a western

Daniel Craig was gracious enough to sit down with me in a field in Montana a few weeks back to talk westerns, sci-fi and the latest combo of the two, "Cowboys and Aliens."

The man is no stranger to physically demanding roles. His James Bond has been by far the most bare knuckled, down and dirty, body slamming Bond we've seen on screen. He's built like a pit bull, and has a steely gaze that can stop a truck, and/or blue eyes that melt your heart.

This made him perfect to play Jake Lonergan, the  cowboy who wakes up in the middle of the desert with no memory and a piece of mysterious alien technology strapped to his arm in "Cowboys and Aliens."

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<p>Olivia Wilde:&nbsp;Nature girl.</p>

Olivia Wilde: Nature girl.

Watch: Olivia Wilde discusses westerns and streaking for 'Cowboys and Aliens'

Some lighthearted moments in Montana

Yes, she's talking about streaking.

To answer a question a few of you had about the Harrison Ford interview yesterday, no, that's not a green screen behind us with stock footage of cows and cowboys playing in the background. The press event was held on a ranch in Montana just outside of Missoula, and those are real cows, that's a real field.

Usually these interviews are held in cramped and hot hotel rooms, and it's not always the most pleasant experience for the actors who must sit there and give interview after interview all day long.

Here, instead of hotel rooms they had set up a row of tents that held all the lights and the equipment, with the back wall open to the field you see behind us. The ranch sent some cows and some cowboys to hang out back there as set dressing and the result is what you see in this interview.

Needless to say this was a nice change of pace, and a very relaxed atmosphere prevailed, which is probably why the subject of streaking came up.

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<p>'What do you mean you want to make a Jack Ryan film first?' 'I was just thinking...' 'Nerve pinch.' '... it would be a good way to reinforce my brand and...' 'NERVE&nbsp;PINCH!&nbsp;NERVE&nbsp;PINCH!'</p>

'What do you mean you want to make a Jack Ryan film first?' 'I was just thinking...' 'Nerve pinch.' '... it would be a good way to reinforce my brand and...' 'NERVE PINCH! NERVE PINCH!'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Star Trek 2' moves out of summer 2012, and 'G.I. Joe 2' moves in

JJ Abrams gets closer to the director's chair as release date shuffle kicks in

I sincerely hope that Mike Fleming's report is correct and that JJ Abrams is finally ready to commit to directing "Star Trek 2."

Now that Paramount has dealt with the reality that the film won't be ready for the June 29, 2012 date they originally claimed for it, Jon Chu's "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" (which is evidently not called "Cobra Strikes" as previously reported to my endless amusement) will be moving up into that spot.  I have no idea what to expect from that sequel as they've basically thrown out most of what made me cackle about the first film, like Joseph Gordon Levitt as Cobra Commander or Chris Eccleston as Destro.

On the other hand, having Abrams onboard as director for "Star Trek 2" makes me feel like the film is off to the right start.  The first film works because it has a tremendous sense of energy and because that cast is so great together.  The script had the unenviable task of both setting up a franchise and figuring out a way of folding the original series into it seamlessly.  It's impressive how much heavy lifting they pulled off without ever forgetting to entertain.

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<p>Oh, Riggins, you sank my battleship</p>

Oh, Riggins, you sank my battleship

Credit: Universal Pictures

Watch: Taylor Kitsch and Liam Neeson aren't playing in first trailer for 'Battleship'

How does Peter Berg turn a board game into a big summer event?

Yep.  That's exactly what I'd expect a Peter Berg "Battleship" to look like.

It's funny… Berg is one of those guys who has definitely made enough films now that we can get a handle on him as a filmmaker, and between his writing, his producing, and his directing, he seems to be a mass of fascinating contradictions.  The rancid, curdled laughs of "Very Bad Things," the heartfelt sincerity of "Friday Night Lights," and the balls-out macho of "The Rundown" all feel like the work of different people, but I get the feeling that's Berg in a nutshell.  Here's a guy who is capable of great sensitivity, but who has an inner musclehead that will not be denied.

"Battleship" looks, frankly, hilarious.  Berg is smart enough to know that there is something inherently ridiculous about making a film based on that game, and so he's embraced that and made a movie that looks, based on this first trailer, to be blatantly aware of what it is.  That Brooklyn Decker/Taylor Kitsch stuff on the beach is straight out of the "Armageddon" playbook… all we need are some animal crackers.  And the dynamic between Kitsch and Liam Neeson looks awfully familiar as well for fans of Michael Bay's movie about the meteor the size of Texas.

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<p>Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone take in the spectacle of Steve Carell and Julianne Moore's marriage in free-fall in 'Crazy, Stupid, Love'</p>

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone take in the spectacle of Steve Carell and Julianne Moore's marriage in free-fall in 'Crazy, Stupid, Love'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Review: Gosling, Stone, Carell excel in smart, adult 'Crazy, Stupid, Love'

HitFix
B+
Readers
B+
Romantic comedy plays both to and against convention to strong effect

Romantic comedy is a difficult genre to get right, and I think that's because audiences are so painfully undemanding when it comes to what they'll pay to see.  As long as producers and writers and directors are rewarded for just maintaining the status quo and making the same thing over and over, there's no reason for anyone to try any harder.  In the case of "Crazy Stupid Love," it is obvious that everyone involved is aware of the cliches they're up against, and they seem determined to avoid the traps that are inherent to this kind of material.  They are more successful than not, thanks in large part to a great cast, and overall, the film is an above-average example of how to do this.

Although next to no one saw "I Love You, Philip Morris," the last film directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, but it was a smart, wicked, impressive take on the romantic comedy that pretty much exploded all the conventions of the genre, not least because the story dealt with two men as the central couple.  The two of them worked together as a writing team first on the films "Cats & Dogs," "Bad Santa," and the remake of "The Bad News Bears."  Oddly, they did not write "Crazy Stupid Love," which was instead written by Dan Fogelman, whose credits include "Cars," "Bolt," and "Tangled."  From that list of credits, I wouldn't really imagine a film like "Crazy Stupid Love" to result from the collision between them all, but it seems like their sensibilities are a nice mesh, and the result is something that definitely has a very mainstream sensibility, but punctuated with some genuine observation, some honest insight into the way we all struggle towards what we think we want, and how we often lie to ourselves about what that is.

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